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If you have a newborn, there’s a chance you’ll be treating a bout of diaper rash at some point. Find out what pediatricians say about this common condition and how to keep your little one comfortable.

Is it my fault if my baby gets diaper rash?

“Don’t feel bad if your baby gets diaper rash,” says Ellen Schumann, MD, a pediatrician in Weston, WI. Most babies get it, and some will have it many times. “It’s not a reflection of your parenting skills. In most cases it’s not your fault.”

Why does it happen?

Common causes include:

  • Sitting in wet or poopy diapers too long
  • Diarrhea
  • Your baby starts to eat solid foods, which causes changes in her poop
  • If a baby (or a breastfeeding mom) is taking antibiotics
  • A yeast infection

How can I prevent and treat diaper rash?

Keep your baby’s skin clean and dry. Change wet or poopy diapers right away to prevent skin irritation. If you see any redness, apply an ointment such as zinc oxide or petroleum jelly, which can serve as a barrier to keep the diaper from sticking to the skin. And you don’t need to wipe it off with each changing.

Use super-absorbent diapers. They’re specially made to keep wetness away from your baby.

If you use wipes, make sure they’re unscented and alcohol-free. If a rash doesn’t go away, stop using wipes and try water or a damp washcloth instead.

Before you put on a new diaper, make sure your baby’s bottom is completely clean and dry. And despite what you might have heard, “Don’t put a baby with diaper rash under a heat lamp or under the sun in summer,” Schumann says.

And unless your doctor prescribes it, don’t use any steroid cream, such as hydrocortisone cream, on your baby.

What if my baby has diarrhea?

Diaper rash can happen when your baby has diarrhea. You may see redness that won’t go away and little red bumps, peeling skin, and even bleeding, Schumann says.

Clean your baby often and slather on a barrier ointment. You can:

  • Rinse your baby’s bottom under water rather than use wipes that can irritate her skin. Or use a damp washcloth or cotton ball instead.
  • Let your baby go diaper-free when you can to help air move over her bottom. (You can just put a towel under her until the diaper goes back on.)

When should I call the doctor?

If a rash doesn’t clear up after a few days with regular cleaning and ointment, it’s time to call the pediatrician, says Adnan Mir, MD, a pediatric dermatologist at Children’s Health in Dallas. Your baby may need medicine to treat any inflammation or infection. If it still doesn’t go away, your baby may have a skin condition that needs other treatment, he says.

You should also call the doctor if your baby has white patches in his mouth along with diaper rash. It could be thrush, a common yeast infection in the mouth. “A pediatrician can tell if it’s thrush or simply milk or spit-up on your baby’s tongue,” Mir says.

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